Helmet Hair - the next weapon in the pursuit of kiting excellence

Helmet hair (definition from Cambridge Dictionary) /ˈhel.mət ˌheər/:
1. a person's hair that is flatter than usual because they have been wearing a helmet (= a strong, hard hat that protects your head when riding a motorcycle or bicycle)
2. hair in a style that looks like a helmet (= a strong, hard hat that protects your head)

Over the past couple of seasons, Max Maeder has been one of the dominant forces on the Olympic kitefoiling scene. The 17-year-old from Singapore has been tearing up the track and setting new standards for others to follow, not least when he won this year’s World Championships in The Hague.

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Karl Maeder's haircut was the talk of the beach this morning

However, his younger brother, the 15-year-old Karl Maeder is also turning over new stones in his neverending quest for kiting excellence. Today at the Formula Kite Asia & Oceania Championships in Shenzhen, China, Karl unveiled his latest secret, the culmination of a project that has been at least three minutes in the making.

Where the conventional wisdom has been that helmet hair is a bad thing, something to be avoided, the innovative teenager has embraced the opposite point of view. With kitefoilers hitting speeds up to 40 knots across the water, aerodynamics are almost as important as the hydrodynamic component beneath the surface.

“The evolution process is really important,” explained Karl, wearing a conventional plastic protective helmet, “because as the sport progresses were getting a smaller and smaller gains. So we're looking into aerodynamics and all sorts of things.

132977000001388004 zc v1 1700648456457 internet 2023 11 22 fk aoc d1 114 rh© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: It was hard to gauge Max Maeder's reaction to his brother's latest move

“And, the helmets, they're just too big, you know? So, so we're gonna have built in helmets in the future, they're going to be very sleek, very tight close, close to the skin.”

At this point Karl unclipped his helmet to reveal...

Helmet Hair

132977000001388004 zc v1 1700730357784 internet 2023 11 23 fk aoc d2 140 rh© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Beach volleyball served as a helpful distraction from the controversial topic of the day

Yesterday evening the Swiss rider had his medium-length mane of hair sculpted in a Chinese hairdressers. The hairdresser delivered the haircut to Karl’s precise specifications, although Karl admits that this version - The Karl 1.0 - is just a prototype and there could be more to come in the future. “I'm testing this out here in Shenzhen but due to racing regulations, I still have to wear a conventional helmet.”

Karl admitted that the aerodynamics is one part of the speed equation. Shock and Awe is another factor which he hopes will play to his advantage: “Intimidation is a big part of my tactics. They other riders will look at me lining up for a port tack start and they'll just back off. Because why go against me, you know?”

132977000001388004 zc v1 1700730420490 internet 2023 11 23 fk aoc d2 144 rh© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Cedric Baker contemplates whether his close friendship with Karl Maeder can survive what some are calling 'Helmetgate'

Early signs on the beach have been encouraging. “Yeah, people are giving me all sorts of weird looks, because [when they see me] it makes them feel emasculated, it makes them feel like less of a man.

“When they see someone rocking this haircut with speed and with confidence, they just back off. It sends them a message.”

Karl wouldn’t reveal if he had taken out patent protection on his haircut. Without that there is a risk others could just copy him. Asked if he thinks ‘The Karl’ could be the start of a new trend he responds curtly: “Let’s hope not.”

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Cedric Baker vents his frustrations on the volleyball

It’s early days, but The Karl has certainly been a talking point. Unfortunately for the Swiss rider he revealed his hand - or his head - a day too early as there was not enough wind for racing today. It’s quite possible that others could arrive on the beach for Friday’s racing also sporting ‘The Karl’. Whether Karl Maeder will be convinced to file a protest against anyone on these grounds we have yet to see.

To witness the big reveal on The Karl, go here:

the Karl

Meanwhile with no change on the leaderboard, it’s Max Maeder who holds the lead in the men while the women’s racing has yet to get underway.

Racing is scheduled to resume on Friday morning, with the event reaching its climax this Sunday with the 10-rider Medal Series.


by event reporter Andy Rice



Maximilian Maeder


1 point


Qibin Huang


2 points


Martin Dolenc


3 points



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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Whichever way you look at it, The Karl takes a bit of getting used to